Insurance is important--and not just for the boat.
Consider for a moment how much stuff you bring aboard to support your on-water recreational lifestyle, from electronics and fishing tackle to watersports gear and stereo speakers. It’s a lot, right? And it’s valuable.
How can you adequately protect all of your add-ons? While you might have a good grasp of boat insurance policies, how sure are you when it comes to all the extras? Here’s the good news: Protecting all the gear isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Extras Covered? Maybe
Most boat policies incorporate a section for hull and equipment that likely will cover anything attached to the vessel, even if it’s removable. According to Becky Reinaker, BoatUS’s vice president of underwriting, engines and towers generally are considered to be part of the boat, as is any essential equipment for the safe operation and routine maintenance of that boat. That means coverage for electronics and dinghies is built right into the policy without requiring an additional endorsement.
“Electronics are covered up to the insured value of the boat and also are subject to the same boat deductible,” Reinaker said. But like many insurers, BoatUS offers a separate endorsement for electronic equipment, which is a frequent target for thieves. Having this, and other, “sub” deductibles will take some of the sting out of making a claim, especially if the hull deductible is in the thousands of dollars. That’s why it’s critical to actually read the policy and discuss it with your agent or broker.
“Understanding coverages by discussing policy language with your agent is important,” said Gary Clausen from Antioch, Calif.- based Twin Rivers Marine Insurance Agency. “(And) take the time to listen to your agent’s translation of coverage. There’s more to a marine policy than the line items of the declarations page.”
A quick tip: Keep the value of your engine, wakeboard tower, navigational electronics and dinghy (if applicable) in mind when you insure your boat.
“When determining the worth of your boat, these values should be included in the overall agreed value that you’re trying to insure,” said Rick Stern, Progressive Insurance’s boat product manager.
If you have watersports equipment, fishing gear and other personal effects that don’t fall under your insurance policy’s existing umbrella, you’ll definitely want to look into broadening the policy’s coverage. Check with your carrier and discuss the possibility of scheduling certain items separately.
“Boating is supposed to be fun and relaxing, an escape from the day-to-day,” Stern said. “However, things happen when you’re stepping on or off the boat, hitting waves while under power or fighting fish along the bow. Dropping a phone, portable speaker, rod or cell over the side is not as uncommon as one might think.”
Endorsements have different levels of coverage, exclusions and cost. Once an endorsement is added, you’ll have coverage up to a specific limit for any accidental loss, which includes theft and items falling overboard.
At Progressive, add-ons are available with virtually all policies, including those for personal watercraft. That makes sense, given that many PWC owners have large threerider machines that are capable of towing two-person tubes; that’s a lot of people who can lose or damage things on the water.
Stern said Progressive sees the broadest array of coverage these days on pontoon boats, which have become jacks-ofall- trades in the boating world. “You can fish on, cruise in, dive from and ski behind a pontoon boat,” he said, “so pontoon customers tend to load up on the diverse coverages they need. Our most popular add-on coverage is our Sign & Glide on-water towing.”
With this coverage, customers use an app to give their exact location to a dispatch center, which sends a tow boat and covers the cost of the tow directly. Customers don’t need to pay a single penny out of pocket. Towing is a highly popular endorsement at BoatUS too. It provides the same towing service offered through BoatUS membership, but it costs less and covers just the insured boat.
Another favorite is the BoatUS Angler endorsement, which provides coverage for rods, reels, tackle containers, trolling motors and other fishing-specific items. It also provides up to a $500 reimbursement for tournament fees, a valuable add-on for anyone who suffers boat or trailer damage prior to a big event.
Then there is the BoatUS Water Sports Package endorsement, which covers gear such as waterskis, wakeboards, kneeboards and inflatable tubes. It also incorporates the $500 reimbursement for tournament fees.
Another tip: If you’re getting an angler endorsement, be sure to provide a detailed description of any outboards and trolling motors. And if you repower at some point, contact your agent as soon as possible to adjust the coverage.
Remember Personal Effects
Be sure to check the policy language to see if it incorporates a list of included personal effects. If important items are not included, it’s time to add a separate endorsement. Doing so is popular with boat owners who want to cover items such as clothing, cameras and cellphones, according to Reinaker, who added that most insurers offer coverage for personal effects, though coverage will vary from insurer to insurer. At BoatUS, for example, scuba gear is part of the company’s Water Sports Package endorsement; at Progressive, it’s part of a separate Personal Effects package.
“Personal Effects coverage is designed to cover things like portable stereos, scuba gear, cellphones, tablets and clothing,” Stern said. “Fishing Equipment takes care of your rods, reels and other fishing gear. At Progressive, these coverages pay nondepreciated replacement cost, so you don’t have to dip into your own pocket to purchase a replacement.”
Again, because coverage does vary widely, be sure to investigate what is included in your policy and in the available add-on packages. And have a detailed discussion with your agent or broker regarding the types of items you wish to cover and their value. Providing such details and responding to a few additional questions can make a big difference in the event of a loss.
Just to be on the safe side, double-check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, as it might cover nonboating items such as clothing, cameras, coolers and sporting equipment. The boat policy could be secondary to this primary coverage, but you need to make sure — and don’t assume that all the items you carry aboard will be covered under that other policy.
“In some cases that might be true,” Reinaker said, “but we ask that (you) verify the items covered and what deductible applies.”
When it comes to insurance, many boaters fall victim to not seeing the forest for the trees. In fact, the biggest pitfalls may seem obvious, but they continue to ensnare the unsuspecting. For one, make sure that the correct items are included under each preferred endorsement, and that you have selected the appropriate value for those items.
“For instance, if you’re looking for coverage in case your fishing rods and reels are stolen, you want to make sure the coverage you are adding to the policy includes those items and at the value you require to replace them,” Reinaker said. “Keep your receipts, especially for higher-dollar items, to assist in determining the value of the items you’re insuring.”
These receipts also will be helpful if — when? — you face the claims process. If you don’t keep receipts for everything you buy, however, consider taking photos of all the fishing tackle watersports equipment, scuba gear and all other items covered by your insurance policy.
Second, take periodic inventory of your boating-related gear, and be sure you have enough coverage for it.
“Many boaters accumulate things over time but don’t think about raising the limits on their add-on coverages,” Stern said. “A fisherman who purchased $1,000 worth of gear might now own $7,000 worth of gear. It’s time to increase coverage.”
Next, remember your agent or broker is on your side. Ask questions, communicate regularly and carefully consider the advice you receive regarding additional coverage.
“Honestly, the cost is minimal to make sure these things are done right,” said Dave Kauffman, president of Anchor Marine in Mercer Island, Wash. “We’re not trying to double anyone’s premium. Another 5 to 10 percent is often the difference between doing it right and not having adequate coverage.”
Finally, make sure you select the insurance policy that’s right for you. In fact, make sure you have insurance, period.
“Having insurance is the most important advice we can give,” Stern said. “For those readers who don’t — and we estimate that more than 35 percent of all watercraft are uninsured — at least get basic liability insurance. Not only will that give you financial protection if you damage another’s property or injure a fellow boater, it also will provide you with coverage for wreckage removal and fuel spills.
TO THE WEB
BoatInsuranceOnly.com (Twin Rivers)
NMU.com (National Marine Underwriters)